Faith and Tom's Blog
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Faith and Tom's Blog

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We have posted some traveling videos on youtube.com. Here is one, check out the rest. More will follow as I find the rest of the buried deep in our picture/movie vault, save from even us.

Bicycle Rant

Clearing the Record

 

Why do motorists get angry with cyclists? I think one reason is that motorists might feel scared when confronted with a cyclist in “their” lane. I have to admit that cyclists can be unpredictable. If there is a giant pothole in the road, I’m going to swerve. And I guarantee that I won’t have time to check for cars over my shoulder. It is kind of a catch 22 as well. Checking over my shoulder causes me to wobble.  Understandable enough. So, it is for this reason that I make an effort to ride intentionally straight and steady. To all those motorists out there, I am trying to safely cohabit the lane with you so that I don’t get killed and you don’t get a dent in your hood. 

 

A word about cyclists following road rules

 

Firstly, rules, in my opinion, are guidelines. Really. How many of us have rolled through stop signs or run a red light when we thought no one was watching?  I think motorists have forgotten about their minor infractions when they are honking at me for running a stop sign.  It takes effort for a cyclist to come to a full stop and then get the wheels revolving again.  For the motorist, it takes a slight pressure of the foot. Yet I incite anger.  For what? Running the stop sign? Getting ahead for five seconds?  Granted,bicycle commuting is a choice, but I wonder if motorists considered the effort spent to power a bicycle, if they couldn’t be a little more compassionate.  Motorists arrive in one-quarter of the time(depending on distance and traffic), with none of the effort.

 

Completely different animals,in my opinion, the car and the bicycle, yet they are expected to follow the same rules. On my bicycle, I am not allowed on the sidewalk (so dangerous anyway and even more annoying for cars) yet I am not accompanied as an equal on the road.  A cyclist is exposed to the elements while a motorist is generally 100% enclosed.  A motorist gets a bug on the windshield while I get a bug in my eye. I am scared on the road sometimes. Literally scared for my life.  It is quite a heart jumper to experience the wind of a vehicle inches away.   

 

A word on “jumping ahead”

 

I feel rude sometimes for not waiting my turn at red lights.  However, rather than suck your exhaust, I prefer to be first in line. Not to mention,this enables oncoming traffic, which might be turning, to notice me first. That isn’t so possible if I am further back in the line.    

 

A shout out to the kind motorists who slow down and let me merge off Mopac onto the Ben White frontage road. This is one of the most difficult intersections to navigate safely on a bike. Thank you.

 

I am NOT waving to you

 

Bicyclists are supposed to respect motorists and visa versa. Sometimes I think that my respect might be in disguise. For example, if I run a red light while you have to patiently wait at said light, it might be because it is safer for both of us for me to get a head start. This gesture is misinterpreted as my arrogance that I don’t have to wait at the light, that I have an advantage over the motorist, etc, etc, etc…  Sometimes I break the rules so that I have a less likely chance to be killed on the road.  I make an effort to let my actions be known to motorists. If I am turning and I feel safe enough to take my hands off the wheel, I signal.  It is unfortunate that many motorists aren’t familiar with these hand signals.  Like the guy who thought I was waving to him while signaling to turn right.

Overall, I love biking Austin!

Going South

 
After closing our Peace Corps service, Tom and I decided to take a quick trip to see the southern part of Madagascar. The South, as it is affectionately called by volunterers, has a special allure.  It is a hot, dry place where people say the culture isn't as influenced and it can be difficult to access.  Well, it is easy enough to access by plane but taking a taxi-brousse is a whole different adventure.

We started at one of the biggest brousse stations in Madagascar, Fasankaran.  Our first stop was Ambositra and it was waiting for this brousse to get on the road that Tom and I came up with the "wait scheme" for taking taxi-brousses.  So, the three most common waiting periods are as follows: 1) Pre-wait, 2) Wait, and 3) Post-wait.  I suppose there can also be the breakdown wait as well.  The pre-wait period can be excruciatingly long.  The first thing one should do is find the vehicle going to desired destination.  Checking the baggage that has already been loaded on top can be a good indication of just how long this pre-wait period will be.  The wait period is the time when everything and everyone has been loaded into the vehicle and the vehicle's engine has been started.  This period is often the most deceptive as we are often fooled that the sound of the engine means it is time to go.  However, this brief (or not) wait period may only take you as far as the gas station or to someone's house.  The engine is cut shortly thereafter and the post-wait begins. This is the time after the engine has started and then been cut again.  Often times short but always has the potential to be long.

To decrease the agony of these periods and to travel comfortably, it has often been said that you should take three things on the road:
1) Toilet Paper, 2) Water, and 3) a book.  We will add a fourth for travel in M/car, 4) a lambaoany, or lamba.  A lamba is a simple piece of cloth used as a kind of skirt by women.  We have come up with numerous uses for a lamba so don't leave home without one!
1) Can be used as a groundcloth just in case you have to sleep in the middle of nowhere on the ground
2) Protection from mosquitos, the sun, cold or something sharp poking you in the side by fellow passenger
3) Can be assembled as a shade structure
4) Item of clothing to cover yourself while urinating along with 100 other passengers (caution: this takes practice)
5) A towel after showering
6) Building a travel bundle (kind of hobo style)
7) Mouth cover to filter out dust, cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes-
8) Rolled up and used as a Neck pillow

Brousse's will never, I repeat, NEVER, leave on-time. No matter what the driver or the workers tell you. I know this but I get anxious nonetheless and make us leave our hotel at first light. 

Ambositra is one of the craft capitals in M/car. They are famous for their woodcarvings. Betsileo is the name of the tribe. 

From Ambositra, we headed to Fianarantsoa (above picture) where we walked around town and checked out a few sites.
Continuing South, we stopped in Ambalavao.  I just had to see one of the places where paper is handmade. Here are a few pictures of the process...
They use the skin of a certain type of bush, cook it, pound it, rinse it and form it. Lastly they add flowers for decoration.  It is super strong and I could have easily spend ALL our money on souvenirs!  From Ambalavao, we also headed to Anja, a small reserve.  Our friend and fellow volunteer, Jeanine used to live there. This is where we spotted our first ring-tail lemurs.  These are probably some of the most commonly photographed lemurs on the island.

From Ambalavao, we headed to Ranohira which is the gateway town for the national park of Isalo.  We thought the name of the town meant song of the water but it actually translates into water of the lemur.  This is one of the most visited national parks in all of M/car but we were fortunate enough to encounter only one other visitor during our stay.  The park reminded us of parts of Mexico and Arizona.  Here we saw a few more lemurs and some cool looking insects.
 It is well worth the trip to check out the natural pools and waterfalls. We went off-season and had the place all to ourselves.

From Isalo, we hightailed it to the brousse station in Ilakaka, the sapphire capital of M/car.  It really does look like a dusty old mining town.  Our small car from Ranohira to Ilakaka was filled to the brim, 4 people in the front--2 on the driver side and 2 on the passenger side and 7 people in the back. 

We finally rolled into the dry, dusty town of Toliara. The pousse possee are huge down there!  From  here, we had our first experience with the mode of transportation of the South--large camions.  Tom says it reminds him of something out of Mad Max.  These things are as uncomfortable as they look. We took our first one here up to check out the beaches of Ifaty.  Two days later we were heading along to Fort Dauphin on the 48 hour brousse ride.  At one point Tom commented, " My ass hurts but so what?" That was maybe only after a day on the road... still more where that comes from!  The road isn't that bad to Fort Dauphin from Toliara but it is long and I would not recommend going in peak summer--way too hot.  This is our brousse to Fort Dauphin.

Of course we broke down for five hours while they rebuilt the backend suspension.
Of course you have to stop by and pick up a few chickens for the last ten hours. What do you do when not all of them fit in the basket on top?

You are getting the picture. Those are only a few feet.
Yes, there were about a hundred strapped to the side of the brousse. I heard they all made it alive.

Fort Dauphin is a beautiful little ocean town.  By this time we had pretty much run out of ariary. We already borrowed money from 3 friends and had no more borrowing options. So, we just hung out, checked out the beaches and relaxed before our next journey back to Tana.  The road is much worse, the brousse is just as uncomfortable and it takes just as long to get there.  Here are a few pictures of what we can call breakdown waits.

So, it was in Fort Dauphin where Tom and I began our "mora voky" or what we Americans might recognize as a high starch diet.  For me that meant cassava and fried fish.  Tom's derivation was cheap, fried street food (thank god our bellies were seasoned!).  I am one to be superficial to worry about money although I rearely abide by that budgeted voice in my head.  Tom, on the other hand, has never been on a budget. He always made good money especially as a bachelor (note: enter wife).  Ok, so what does it mean in a developing country such as M/car?  Food is plentiful here and pretty delicious too.  In the end, we know we weren't going to go too hungry as a giant piece of grain corn (kind of like what you would feed a chicken) is roughly $0.10 while a yam might put us back $0.05.  Starting to feel full yet?

Our brousse to Tana from Fort Dauphin. We went in the rainy season, but it was not rainy until we left for Tana. At one point we thought we were not going to make our flight out of Tana. We did.

Random shot of the latest in Gasy architecture in the rural area on the road from Fort Dauphin
Yes rushing water and a hugh log in the way so they just pulled it out of the way, only a hour and a half wait.
Major stickage, busses pulling busses and people pushing cars. It reminded me of a 'in the mud crash derby', but no one got hit.
All in all, even though our butts are sort of raw and still sore, we will relish the comfort of the airplane going to Thailand. We paid for one seat and by golly, we'll get one seat with enough room for our own ass and perhaps our elbows and shoulders too.

The Map Project

Thanks to Information Assets for contributing resources for supplies to make the Map project possible. Thanks Bill and the board of directors.


Check out the progress of the World map in Imorona. It came together over a month.  The 6'+ x 12'+ map came together nicely.



Notice the size of the wall!




After drawing the large rectangle, we drew small 10cm ones, this is the secret of the map, notice the small picture he is copying. The squares are numbered to keep track of location on the wall and picture.




I'll let the pictures do most of the blogging




Kids were getting into it.




Also the teachers




Here is Martin, painting it up.




Teacher and student working together




Perched to paint




Local students making a day of it.




A little Texas pride




Faith putting the finishing touches, the Director, who teaches English, requested the map in English, easy for us.




Madagascar Pride

Building the Library


Here is a pictorial account of the construction of the new library in Imorona, Thanks to all that helped make this happen.

This is the old library that was in the front portion of Martins house. He is the prez of the local group named HITA, which bascially means to discover, to see, to find




A diverse collection of people contributed, older and younger a like, women and men.




They use a wooden hammer to beat the wood posts into a tight fitting toung and groove relationship.




To hold these posts together they use pegs.




They framed the house by hand, and a lot of hands were involved.




Up on top they reach to put in the last of the pegs.




Here is the basic frame completed.




After working the morning, all the workers had a meal together.




Next is the roof, which is made from palm leaves and usually lasts about 6 years, depending on cyclones.




Here Tom got into the action and picked up a skill to add to his resume.




The roof is done.




The beginning of a floor.




The prez and vice prez are getting the planks laid down.




The floor has been laid and is ready for action.




The outside siding is nailed on.




Here is a view of the inside, with tables.




They are wiring up the solar panels, which will light the place up for night time ready and a place to meet.




Martin in the blue is very proud of the work that has been complete.

A Long Vacation

It has been a really long time since we’ve blogged—hum, guess that isn’t a Microsoft sanctioned word yet.  Thanks to those who actually check it and gently urge us to update!

Well, I will begin with a brief update of Tom since I am authoring this section.  Tom has gotten comfortable with his facial hair lately and it just keeps growing and growing and…

He has some new foot infections that he is nursing back to health.  He won’t deny that he is pretty excited to return back to good ole’ sterile U S of A!
 
Our close of service conference, or COS conference as Peace Corps calls it, is March 4-6.  Can you believe it has almost been two years?!   

I have been in Tana for entirely way too long.  My friend, Martin, was awarded money from the US Embassy for our library project and we were required to receive it in person.
 

The date happened to fall two and a half weeks before my mom came to visit. So add two and a half weeks plus the three weeks we were on vacation and we have been away from site for almost two months. 

So…  “The Vacation”.  I am not sure my mom will agree with me as to whether or not she was actually on vacation.  The word vacation implies relaxation, ease of going, fun, etc…  Madagascar is a difficult place to access.  Flights are limited and very expensive so we had to do some “broussing” (bush taxiing).  One thing is for sure… we definitely have some stories to trade, my mom and I!  Here are some pictures to show you the wonderful things we saw in Madagascar.

My mom and 16 year-old nephew, Shawn, arrived in Tana on November 16 after a 6 hour layover in Paris.   We spent a few days in Tana recovering from jet lag and then set off towards Mananara-Nord.  We flew with a missionary organization called MAF and Shawn got to sit in the co-pilot’s chair.
 

Landing strip in Mandritsara, a town about three days walk from our site.



Upon arrival in Mananara, we had to eat our weight in letchis.  Letchis are delicious red fruits that only come into season for about a month every year.  And they only ripen on the tree so they are difficult to save.



We headed out to a small island nearby called Aye-Aye Island, famous for the rare lemur, the Aye-Aye.  We weren’t patient enough to actually see it but I think we were satisfied with the coconuts anyway!



From there we visited our village, Imorona but those pictures were all on Shawn’s camera and were subsequently erased… so you’ll have to fill in the gaps.

Then up to Maroantsetra.  The 114km stretch of road north isn’t so bad but the bridges are notoriously rotten.  In addition to the bridges, there are also six major river crossings.  We decided it would be best to hire our own vehicle as to minimize suffering during my mom’s first taxi brousse ride.


Here we are lounging around in the back of the Toyota 4x4.



Typical method of crossing the river. Notice the bridge has seen better days, but the guy dragging the bamboo fery doesn't seem to mind.



Random fishing guys seen on our way to Nosy Manga Be.



Random photo of Nosy Manga Be.



Our destination: Nosy Mangabe.  Nosy means island and mangabe, we learned, has many meanings. Most simply it means big mangos or big blue.  But history has it that slaves were kept on the island as well. Mango trees were planted to feed the slaves so slave became to mean manga.  Along with the history of the island we saw many interesting critters.



Cool little frog.



We got lucky to see this little guy. He was standing guard, but he didn't mind us walking by.



This guy is awesome, he is seen here asleep. The leaf-tailed gecko is very common on Nosy Manga Be.



An alert leaf-tailed gecko.



Vinsty, malagasy king fisher.



Cute little bat hanging around under a large rock.



Malagasy tree boa.

Next stop—Diego Suarez.  The first thing that struck us right off the plane was the cute, yellow taxis outside the airport.



We decided that we would head south to Ankarana to see the crazy karst-filled landscape. 



Standard taxi bus on a good road. Of couse we had to stop many times to add water and fix a flat.





Park view before the landscape turned to rocks.



Suspension bridge built by the Malagasy from imported supplies purchased from entry fees.



Rocky view of Lynne and Tom.



Cicada. There were lots of them and as we left some natives where going to harvest them for food. They are also known as Malagasy Pop Corn.

The next day we went to Emerald Island. We were lucky enough to spot three manta rays and a sea turtle on our boat ride to the island—no pics but very memorable.



Picture of the boat leaving Emerald Island to catch lunch.

Back to Tana for a night and then out to visit our host family.  It was very sweet to see my host family and my mom together.  They gave us a warm reception and we shared a meal in their home. My mom was finally glad to meet the woman who took care of us upon our arrival to Madagascar two Februarys ago.



And finally, our last stop. We visited Jonathan, fellow volunteer in Andasibe National Park.
 


Cool little bug, Malagascar giraffe beetle.



Babakoto, largest living lemur.



Another leaf-tailed gecko, but different from the Nosy Manga Be dude.



little chameleon.

I think we sufficiently wore out my mom and Shawn for their 1:30a.m. departure from Tana.

Trips to three Parks

Masoala is the north east arm of Madagascar. Four of us went for a little walk across it. We had a fine time with the help of some friends. Meaning; a guide, a cook, and two porters. Food is heavy by the way. Bits and pieces were primary rainforest with a climax of a huge waterfall. We hobbled our way through to the other side. For now here are some pictures of our seven day hike.

Fresh out of Maroantsetra, our starting town, we took a dugout canoe. It should have been a few hours but ended up taking twice as long because the rivers were abnormally low. We ended up pushing the boat at some parts and walking through the mud. But we took it all in stride, as you do in Madagascar. Its part of the adventure.


Here is the whole gang. We picked up the second porter mid-way.



Sean had to buy shoes for the trip, so he chose jellys. That way his feet could breath and not get trench foot. The problem was he could not find his size so he opted for too small. Cedric the cook burnt a hole to make more room to accommodate the too large big toe. Days later Sean had to cut a huge hole in the jellys. Weeks after the trip Sean’s toe nail fell off. It was gruesome. 



After five years of faithful service Helen’s Chocos finally bit the dust. They were declared dead after one cracked in half. Needless to say she gave them to our cook who will try to get some use out of them, Good Luck! Knowing that her shoes were on their last leg she also bought some jellys. On day three she decided to give them a shot and the buckle of one came off rendering them useless and her barefoot. Luckily Gasy ingenuity came through, our guide tied the buckle on with a string, and she was on her way.



Leeches, wow and lots of them. Faith was a main target, but an hour or two into the first leech day Helen got bite and sucked on. They got a meal. Her comment was “It hurt”. We picked leeches off of us for about three days while we hiked.



Helen was repaired quickly by an old Malagasy natural remedy ‘leaves’. She was good as new and sported a new ‘back to nature’ style.



We made it to the waterfall that is in the middle of the park. It was awesome, we were surrounded by primary growth rainforest on top of a sizable waterfall.



Here is us at the top of the waterfall.



Since we took a cook we suspected that he would cook, but he did not start cooking until day four. We got talked into eating at small restaurants for the first few days. We decided to take some snacks for a picnic our first day. This is our spread for seven people. The Malagasy get a little uneasy if they don’t eat rice three times a day, but they were good sports for a few meals. The restaurant food for seven people adds up quickly. I would recommend having a cook and porter that know the trail and send them ahead to cook and have everything ready for a quick meal. Our cook was talented but being 18 years old he didn’t cook enough sauce for the rice. We told him “vazaha tena tia ro”, “ty ampy ro” translation Foreigners like sauce a lot”, “not enough sauce”. He never got the picture, but he is a good kid.



Another picture of the gang.



Here we are crossing a river, one of the hundred river crossings on our seven day journey. One crazy river crossing almost swept Helen down stream. Our guide caught her.




Here is us on a dugout canoe going down stream for three hours to end the seven day hike. By this time Helen’s ankles hurt so bad she could barley walk. She was a trooper. Sean and I had many infections on each foot that caused us to wince in pain if our foot slipped or we caught a stick in the wrong place while hiking. Weeks after the hikes we still had infections that had not healed. Faith came out of it with only a minor blister that healed over quickly.



On the trip down stream we saw a guy washing a cow and it seemed he also was taking a bath. We saw three crocodiles and signs of many many more. I would not have gotten in that river even if I did have cloths.




Marojejy

Sean, Faith and I went on a four day hike in Marojejy. It was awesome, organized, professional and worthwhile. Our guide Moses was very knowledgeable and very professional. If you are up near Antalaha check it out. It is between Sambava and Andapa in the northeast part of the Red Island of Madagascar.

Here we are buying beans and rice. We bought three cups of beans for each meal to feed us plus our cook and guide. We really like sauce or ‘ro’ as we say. We ended up running out of rice but had plenty of beans, it was great. Sometimes you just get tired of rice.



From the ANGAP office we hiked for three hours to the park entrance. We walked along rice fields and through two small towns. They have set up a buffer zone around the park, I think people can not live there but they can still farm. In the background you can see three jagged peaks, we camped across from them.



Here is a chameleon that we saw on our way up to the park entrance. Our guide know how to point out animals and call birds. He especially knew our pace, he kept us slow and steady so we had time to look around and soak it all in. It was great.





Here is a picture of Sean, Moses and Me.



Tree Boa just hanging out about head level right on the trail.



I am not sure their name something Silky Sefika, I will fix that later, but they are in the top 25 endangered non human primates. Of course humans are far from endangered.



We had very accommodating accommodations. We were far from roughing it. We had lunch at camp one then continued up to camp two, where we spent the night. Our second night was at camp three where it was rainy and cold we were in bed by 7:30 pm. Day three was dedicated to climbing up to the summit.



Faith found a few chameleons when we were bush whacking looking for the lemurs. She found a tiny one that we thought it was the smallest, but Moses said there is a smaller one. Then we saw the next size up. Pretty cool.







Can you find the frog? Moses pick it right our on the side of the trail. He pointed to it with his umbrella and we still could not pick it out, but we finally saw it.



Here is us at camp 3. The next day we walked a good pace for two hours to the cold windy cloudy summit. It was only two hours between the different camps, very manageable and enjoyable. The trails were very well taken care of and easy to hike. Even though they were cut back our old friends, the leeches, ate on us, but not too much. Faith is a leech magnet and had to stop every so often to do a leech check.



Here we are heading up to the summit. You can see the three jagged peaks of marojejy that were so far in the background many days ago.



We are heading down, back to camp 2. The next day we headed out of the park and back to the ANGAP office and waited to hail a bus. It was a fun time and only took us six hours to get out of the park and down to our cooks house for a quick lunch of beans. He was a great cook and really knew how to take care of us. We had honey roasted and salty peanuts waiting for us after our day hikes each day. Bee, our cook, and Moses made the experience.



Us just below camp three. There were a few scenic overlooks that we stopped at and really soaked in the view.



Cap East

We went to the furthers east point of Madagascar known as Cap Est. There was a park we checked out and a solar powered lighthouse. We had a good time and it was fun standing still for a while especially after the Masoala trip and we needed time to regroup to prepare for the Marojejy trip. This is us at the furthers Eastern point of Madagascar.





Our guide Pauline was super duper it was as if we were in the states being lead around by ranger Joe. He really knows his stuff. He is describing the picture plant, here are some random photos. Don`t worry Sean recovered.







And of course we saw a chameleon.



We stayed at Chez de Justin. Justin hosted a Volunteer a few years back so we got a discount on lodging and meals. In all we stayed two nights. Here is our caretaker, Justin showing off dinner.



For our last meal we had lobster, awesome especially at 2 bucks a person. We had grilled lobster and lobster with sauce. It was yummy. Here is Sean having his first lobster ever.



Pictures

Here are some photos.


Tom after he was working in the rice field.


A fruit stand we stopped at on our way back to Tana from Marondava.


A shot from the plan flying from Maintirano


On the small island where we were looking for sea turtles there was lots of drying meat. The rats loved it.


The one turtle we got to see, she is a cutie.


Crab

Counting Eggs


Local subdivision we saw cruising around other small islands


We were lucky to see the baobabs with leaves

Happy New Year

Blog Entry Feb 05, 2008. First and foremost, Happy new year! We have seen a lot of change over the past year with coming from the U.S. to Madagascar as Peace Corps volunteers.  Our one year anniversary is quickly approaching on February 22.  We continue to ponder the never-ending complexities of social, economic and agricultural development under the umbrella of environmental responsibility.  Tom thinks this topic deserves several volumes but he attests he is not the one to start writing it.

It has been a long time since we have updated the blog, so we’ll start with the most recent trip.  We went to Maintirano on the west coast to assist a fellow volunteer, ben, with a local sea turtle project. Geraud heads and runs the project. Our plane stopped in a few small villages along the way and at one stop we had to get out for an hour and wait for the plane to return. We flew in at the end of January and stayed on a small island called Nosy Aboazo (part of the Ile Barrens chain) about 55km southwest from Maintirano.  It was about 35 degrees C everyday and the sand was hot enough to peel the skin off Faith’s feet. We had a couple of rain storms that blew our tarp down and I thought it was going to take us with it. We stayed in a tent when it rained, but we mostly slept on the beach close to the ocean in the wide open spaces. To stay in amongst the foliage invited sleep interruption from the hundreds of rats on the island. It is fady, or taboo, to kill the rats as the local people believe that rats harbor the souls of their ancestors.  It is just too bad the people don’t afford the same protection to lemurs!  On one occasion during a mid-day nap, a rat or two walked between Faith and I and scared the living daylights out of us. One day I had one actually sit on my head. Crazy! I was not amused and had no compassion for the rodents.

After our fifth or sixth night (hard to keep track of the days when living in paradise) of walking around the island (it took us about 45 minutes to circumnavigate the island by foot) at high tide, we finally got to see a huge green sea turtle.  She was magnificent and a wonder. The research work was done by two Malagasy men,  Mender and Dookie. They first counted all the eggs in the nest and then measured and weighed a random sample of 30 eggs.  There is some theory that the weight of the eggs can determine the age of the turtle.  If she was not marked, a silver tag was placed on her front left fin.

After seven days on the island we returned to Maintirano to wait for a boat going North to Mahajunga.  Well, needless to say, boats are few and far between during the infamous cyclone season. We waited for about five days (and not just any five days… five days of 100 degree heat with no air conditioning or breeze) before missing our boat and were finally forced to take the plane south to Morondava. You may remember Morondava from our pictures of the baobob trees.  Well, it wasn’t our first choice destination, but we enjoyed it. We got to see the baobobs with leaves.  Then we hitched a ride back to Tana with a peace corps car (thank god for Peace Corps vehicles) and stopped at a few sites along the way.


We completed our first rice harvest of the year which yielded about twice as much rice in the same field as the traditional technique.  Tom started to work the field and planted a few cover crops to increase fertility.

Faith works with the local Seecaline which works with mothers and children (0-5 yrs) to improve nutrition.  This is my home girl, Madeleine, who is in charge of the Seecaline.

We started a new women’s farming group and here we all still celebrating the New Year on January 3.

Geraud heads and runs the project.

Ben and Geraud

Our campsite on the Island.

I will get some photos up.

Hotel Lesson and a death in the family

Hotel lesson not learned
Saturday night I was on the Net thinking that I should find a hotel. David told me, he was staying in tamatave that night. It was dark and I was not going to ride the twelve K back to his site. I didn’t learn my lesson from the other night. I still didn’t make a reservation. I thought I could get a room at the Lionel, but I forgot about the wedding that was in town. I checked the hotel and of course it was full. I stopped off at a hotel close to the internet place thinking I could get lucky, but they were all booked up. They did save me a trip across town and gave me Marotia’s phone number, but yet again, they didn’t have a room. Then I turned around to the desk guy speaking French to me. After some back and forth, me telling him I don’t know French speaking in Malagasy, he finally understood that I didn’t speak French, we got on the same page. He would let me sleep in the upstairs common room if I got out by 6:00 am, for 10,000 AR (5 bucks). It sounded good to me, so he pocketed the money and I got a nice place to crash, win-win situation. I got up at 5:30am, hung out for a little bit downstairs and left. He made sure that I was gone before his boss showed up. The term he used was “Tsy ambara in-telo” meaning “don’t tell a third person”.

Death in the family
Here is a little story that happen a couple of months ago. Our pet lizard died. He was not really a pet. He ran free eating anything sweet. He particularly liked honey, but would nibble on fruit. It was a tragedy waking up and going into our “kitchen”, our other room, and finding our lizard friend in a bowl of water. It looked like he drowned, he was dead. We were saddened because he was a source of entertainment and beauty. Without effort, we provided food. Where there is food …. Sure enough another lizard moved in.
 
In other house animal news, we had a mother mouse move in. She would make a terrible rack at night. We finally found her nest in our cupboard. I reinforced the structure to discourage her return. We didn’t know at the time that she had a litter. When we found it we decided to move the younglings outside. She only moved three, the other three died. For a short while they were part of our family.